A Scrapyard of Hindu Puppet Gods
There is something very creepy about the images that Roc Morin captured for his story about puppet designer and artist Ulhas Utkar, who makes many of the major figurines used for religious festivals around Mumbai. I think the scattered piles of Hindu puppet god bodies he captures perfectly encapsulate the modern schizophrenia, where these objects are simultaneously highly symbolic and religiously imbued on one hand, and nothing more than discardable plaster and fiberglass on the other. Sacred and Scrap.
Here’s an excerpt from the piece, which is mostly a photo essay of this puppet workshop in the desert outside of Mumbai.
It was like the aftermath of some universal apocalypse. The dismembered bodies of gods, demons, and men lay strewn across the desert landscape. Standing among them intact, Ulhas Utkar seemed like the war’s unlikely winner.
For the past 25 years, the craftsman has built fiberglass gods and other creatures for India’s many holy festivals. The animatronic statues are pulled on carts in parades as they scream, flail, jump, dance, and breathe fire.
This particular Hanuman, the artist noted, was 27 feet tall. That made it one of his smaller creations. Utkar lifted tarps to reveal the face of a 60-foot Hanuman that roars with the sound of wind. Beside it was the face of the 70-foot baby-killing demon called Trinavarta. Uktar demonstrated how its eyes light up and shift back and forth to scan the crowd. Included with every major god or demon rental is a hoard of fiberglass human and humanoid attendants.
See all the amazing pictures and read the rest of the piece over at VICE right here.